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Home Craft Give a Stained Shirt New Life By ‘Tie-Dying’ It With Bleach

Give a Stained Shirt New Life By ‘Tie-Dying’ It With Bleach

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Photo: Charlie Lewis

There’s probably at least one beloved shirt in your closet that you no longer wear because of a small, unsightly stain. Well, no need to leave it hanging any longer—bleaching with tie dye is a great way to give any slightly stained garment a new life (and a new look). It’s like tie-dyeing without the dye, as the bleach creates interesting swirls in the original color.

Yes, you are technically dealing with a stain by covering it up with a much larger stain. But in a way that looks much more intentional (and a little retro). Here’s how to do it yourself.

What you’ll need

To tie dye a shirt with bleach, you’ll need the following:

  • The shirt you want to “tie dye” — light, solid color shirts typically will turn out the best, but if a shirt is stained anyway, you might as well give it a try!
  • 1/2 cup of bleach
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • A spray bottle (optional)
  • Rubber bands (optional)
  • A plastic drop cloth or garbage bag (optional)

Prepare your work space

Tie dye can be a messy process, so you’ll want to make sure that you have a plastic drop cloth or garbage bag to protect your surfaces. You’ll also want to put on gloves to protect your hands from the bleach and make sure the clothes you’re wearing are ones you don’t care about, or you’ll soon be repeating the process to bleach them, and on and on until you run out of clothes.

Mix the bleach solution

In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 cup of bleach and 1/4 cup of water. Pour the solution into the spray bottle if you want.

Prep the shirt

Next, you’ll need to prep the shirt. Wet it with water and then wring it out so that it’s damp but not soaking wet. Lay it flat on your work surface, pinch the part that you want at the center of the tie dye, and spin the shirt around that point (creating more complicated tie dye patterns is also an option). You can use the rubber bands to secure it in place, or you can work to arrange the shirt carefully without the rubber bands.

Apply the bleach solution

Be sure to wear gloves while applying the bleach solution. Spray or pour the bleach solution onto the shirt. You can apply the bleach more or less evenly for different effects. Allow the shirt to sit for five to ten minutes, or until you see the desired effect.

Rinse and dry

Once you’re happy with how your shirt looks, rinse it under cold water until the bleaching process has stopped. Toss it in the washing machine and run it as a separate load on the gentle cycle, using cold water. Hang it up to dry or tumble dry on low heat.

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